Smithville is a small, historic town centrally located in the rectangle formed by Austin, Houston, San Antonio and Bryan-College Station. The Smithville Area Chamber of Commerce is heavily involved in the town’s promotion, developing a wide variety of events appealing to a diverse crowd of visitors. In 2009, the Chamber united with the community and orchestrated a massive bakery project resulting in a Guinness World Record—for the Largest Gingerbread Man Cookie! The Texas Photo Festival (a free event) was first held in the fall of 2010 and has witnessed great success for the last two years. Smithville is also known for its film festivals and as the location for several movies, including Hope Floats and The Tree of Life. So just because your travels may take you right past this small town, the size doesn’t mean the community is not capable of big goals and the ability to put on a big-time event. With that in mind, if you were in the area of Smithville in the middle of March and heard thunder, it wasn’t coming from the sky. Instead it was the rumble of 1,200 hawgs coming out and supporting a great cause. That’s when the Smithville Area Chamber of Commerce and Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA) came together for the 6th annual Thunder on the Colorado at Riverbend Park.
There are four parks in the Smithville network with Riverbend being the largest at 50 acres. It features a softball field, volleyball courts, an open-air pavilion, a fenced-in area for larger events, 19 campsite pads, Wi-Fi, restrooms and a boat ramp that provides access to the Colorado River. And for the last five years it has proven to be ideally suited to accommodate a large contingency of bikers out to have a weekend of fun.
This year’s Thunder kicked off on Friday night with a bike parade through the historic downtown district. The parade was followed by a new event tagged Friday Night Lights, where you could display your LED-lit bike for bragging rights. If additional bragging rights were required, then you also had the chance to take part in the Texas Hold ’Em Poker Tournament held at the park Friday night. Live music by the Larry Wilson Band was provided as part of the gate fee for those more interested in romancing their partner than poker.
Saturday morning started out with a fun ride with riders being given maps and a choice of two routes that wound through some scenic back roads. Each route included stops where the participants were stamped. Deadline to be back at Riverbend Park was 3:00 that afternoon and you needed to have secured five out of the six stamps from the designated stops to be eligible for a drawing and half of the registration pot. The remainder of the pot was donated to BACA and their ongoing battle to protect our children. And since it was Saint Patrick’s Day, you had better been wearing your green. If not, you had to keep a sharp eye for the Pinching Irish Princess!
The bike show had categories for Daily Rider, Custom/Chopper, Trike and Vintage, each with some very pretty bikes. My favorite was a
Daily Rider entry called the Tribute Bike. It was covered with portraits of celebrities including Johnny Cash, Kiss, Hank Williams, Hank Jr. and many more. The first-place winner received a trophy while second and third each received a T-shirt and pins.
Shortly after the bike show, everyone shifted to the open field outside the fenced section of the park. There, under a huge oak tree, the field games kept the riders busy and the crowd entertained with the slow race and wienie bite. (Men just love to see just how much a woman can bite when she is riding on the back of a big ol’ Harley.) The “Find the Beer in the Haystack” event had bikers riding around a large haystack in circles until the announcer shouted, “Go!” At that point the gals had to jump off the bike, find the hidden beer and be the first to chug it. And finally there was the “Honey, I’m Home” competition. I had not seen this game before but let me say, it was funny. Partners would lay on a mattress (any position they like) and when they heard “Honey, I’m home” over the loud speaker, the male had to put on their boots as fast as they could (some had a hard time), scramble through a mock window, mount their bike and cross the finish line for the fastest time. Let’s just say, some men found it quite a chore to quickly don their pull-on boots. The evening’s entertainment included two musical groups, Bedlam (with an Irish twist) and the Jeff Haney Band.
On Sunday morning, a Blessing of the Bikes was held followed by a drawing to win gift certificates for motorcycle parts and accessories from Sorgy’s Scooter Supply in Cedar Creek, Texas. The band Crossroad ended the weekend with a performance from 10:30 until noon.
If you didn’t get to make it this time, be sure to stop by next year to help support a great cause in one of Texas’s most picturesque towns. The Smithville Chamber of Commerce is already gearing up, so come on out and have some fun.